tor·​toise·​shell | \ ˈtȯr-tə-ˌshel How to pronounce tortoiseshell (audio) , -əsh-ˌshel \

Definition of tortoiseshell

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the mottled horny substance of the shell of the hawksbill turtle used especially formerly in inlaying and in making various ornamental articles
2 or tortoiseshell butterfly : any of several showy nymphalid butterflies (genera Nymphalis and Aglais) that have wings mottled with orange and brown or black



Definition of tortoiseshell (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : made of or resembling tortoiseshell especially in mottled brown and yellow coloring tortoiseshell glasses
2 : of, relating to, or being a color pattern of the domestic cat consisting of patches of black, orange, and cream

Examples of tortoiseshell in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Just in time for the sunny days ahead, Brunello Cucinelli and Olivier Peoples debuted a dreamy collection of eyewear filled with timeless aviators and tortoiseshell frames. Vogue, 19 Apr. 2022 On May 7, 1990, a feral tortoiseshell cat wandered onto the field during a game between the A’s and the Yankees, and was frightened by the cheering crowd and unable to make an escape, according to the ARF website. Michael Cabanatuan, San Francisco Chronicle, 12 Apr. 2022 There's Akimbo — a Bengal who is paralyzed after falling nine stories from a high-rise and can't walk — and Rita, a tortoiseshell cat who had her leg amputated after a car ran over her. Michelle Boudin,, 13 Dec. 2021 Your linen napkins complement your tortoiseshell Sabre flatware perfectly. Bon Appétit, 14 Oct. 2021 The neutral tortoiseshell frames and slightly blue lens are a classic combo and offer 100 percent UV protection. Meredith Carey, Condé Nast Traveler, 6 Aug. 2021 Paired with tortoiseshell cat-eye sunglasses and a pair of Re/Done’s sustainable skate sneakers, the look was perfect for a casual outing with friends. Janelle Okwod, Vogue, 25 June 2021 Relatively cost-effective and resplendently retro, this cowhide, 1970s-style shoulder bag is equipped with a magnetic closure and vintage-looking tortoiseshell buckle. Katharine K. Zarrella, WSJ, 15 May 2021 Pair this dress with a straw visor, tortoiseshell sunnies, and your favorite bikini for any afternoon activity by the water. Taylor Ayers, Marie Claire, 27 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The latest version is available in four distinct frames, including white, tortoiseshell, and burgundy with a handful of beautiful lens options. Mike Richard, Men's Health, 17 May 2022 Meanwhile, Kate recently broke out a similar tortoiseshell pair while in The Bahamas last March. Sophie Dweck, Town & Country, 10 Apr. 2022 There are also tortoiseshell eyeglasses and a pair of reading glasses in a black and gold case. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, 22 Feb. 2022 One person responsible for that is Will Schwarz, a white man in his 70s with white hair and tortoiseshell glasses who serves as the founder and president of the Maryland Lynching Memorial Project. Clint Smith, The Atlantic, 2 Feb. 2022 Kon also revealed the roster of nail polishes that were used to create the tortoiseshell pattern. Sara Miranda, Allure, 28 Dec. 2021 As students filed into the auditorium, setting their laptops and water bottles on tables, Norman entered wearing tortoiseshell glasses and earphones, his hair dishevelled. James Somers, The New Yorker, 29 Nov. 2021 To add to the understated but luxurious vibe, Markle added tortoiseshell sunglasses from Valentino and a mini bag from stealth wealth accessories brand, Valextra. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, 24 Sep. 2021 LovieaShop created a tortoiseshell face mask chain that is available in multiple colors like One, a cream and tan, and Eight, a pink ombré. Nicole Saunders, NBC News, 2 Apr. 2021 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'tortoiseshell.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of tortoiseshell


1632, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1651, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of tortoiseshell was in 1632

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Dictionary Entries Near tortoiseshell

tortoise scale


tortoiseshell cat

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Statistics for tortoiseshell

Last Updated

28 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Tortoiseshell.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for tortoiseshell


tor·​toise·​shell | \ ˈtȯr-təs-ˌshel How to pronounce tortoiseshell (audio) \

Kids Definition of tortoiseshell

1 : a hard brown and yellow material that covers the shell of a sea tortoise used especially in the past for ornamental objects
2 : a brightly colored butterfly

More from Merriam-Webster on tortoiseshell

Nglish: Translation of tortoiseshell for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about tortoiseshell


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